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With all the design template sites out there, why hire a designer?

searching for graphic designers

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searching for graphic designersYou’re stoked. You just started a brand new company and life is grand. Paperwork is filled out. It’s official. And you can’t wait to prove everyone that said you couldn’t do it wrong.

You’re a smart person. You know the next step is a logo. You also know that Google is approaching world domination, so you hop online to find your options. Logically, you begin with “where to get a logo” or something similar. You’re well on your way to happiness.

Except there is something between you and happiness. Actually, about 2,500,000,000 somethings. There are too many options. Graphic Designers, design template sites, do-it-yourself sites, the search results list goes on and on. You don’t have time for this and seeing how graphic design isn’t your specialty you might not know which option is best for your specific situation.

Rest easy. I’m here to help get you back on your way to happiness.

 

There are so many websites today where you can get a cheap logo, website, etc. Some places even offer it to you for “free.” When faced with a free or even $40 logo from one of these sites or a $600 logo from a designer, I can see why the $40 option starts looking mighty fine. Don’t jump the gun just yet. Take three deep breaths and read on.

Let’s take a logo project as an example.

Design Template Sites:

THE PROS:

  • The logo will be cheap or free.
  • The logo will be completed in days or in some cases even minutes.

THE CONS:

  • The visual solution is usually based on templates meaning other companies can and will have a logo similar to yours.
  • There is usually no research involved.
  • Often-times the “professional” logos that are promised give off the impression that your company is anything but professional.
  • Some sites DO allow you to modify the logo you created with them – however, you might have to hire a designer to do it. Unless you know and have the graphic software needed. And yes, that will still cost you money.

The company freelogoservices.com has their terms of use online. (As a side note, I would ALWAYS recommend looking at the terms of use before making a decision.) In big, bold, capital letters they state,

OTHER CUSTOMERS USE OUR CONTENT TO CREATE LOGOS.  THEREFORE, WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT YOUR LOGO WILL NOT BE THE SAME AS, OR SIMILAR TO, LOGOS THAT HAVE BEEN, OR WILL BE, CREATED BY OTHERS, OR THAT YOUR LOGO DOES NOT OR WILL NOT INFRINGE ON ANYONE ELSE’S TRADEMARK OR OTHER RIGHTS.

The company is telling you outright that you will not have an exclusive logo. Anyone can have the exact same logo as you. And by agreeing to these terms of use, you have no legal action available to you if this damages your company or your finances in any way.

The same company also states in its Terms of use,

If we believe at any time, in our sole discretion, that your use of any of Our Content or a Logo could give rise to legal liability, we have the right, at any time, to require that you cease to use the applicable Logo, in which event we shall, at your option and as our sole liability in connection therewith, provide you with the opportunity to create a new Logo or refund to you any fees that you paid to create the original Logo.

This site can tell you at any time on a whim to stop using your logo. And you must comply. Regardless of how much brand equity you already have built up. This is because you are working with a template and guess who owns the copyright to the template? Not you.

Hiring a designer:

THE PROS:

  • Exclusivity. You are the only one getting this logo. Period.
  • Extensive research is usually involved. My company for example will research your industry to make sure the logo is something that works within your industry and will then research your competition to make sure that your logo looks very different from theirs.
  • The logo will be a true reflection of who you are as a company due to the time we have spent getting to know and researching your company.

THE CONS:

  • The logo will likely be more expensive.
  • The logo can take longer to complete (due to the research portion). A lot of designers will do rush jobs though for an additional fee so you can technically have your logo in the same amount of time as with a template site if you so desire.

All designers are not created equal so do your research. It’s not just about their talent. It’s also about their professionalism, their communication skills, and whether or not they share in your passion and vision for your company. I guarantee you that a designer that sees your vision for your company will create a much better logo than those that don’t. 100% of the time. Be prepared that this can take some time. The end result is worth it.

Why does a designer charge so much money? It’s just a drawing right?

Wrong. If a designer is a professional, here is what drives up the cost of creating a simple “drawing” of a logo.

  • Research – As I mentioned earlier, a professional designer will do research before beginning to design your logo. At the very least they should research your company. Most will research your industry and competition as well.
  • Creativity – Brainstorming to create the most perfect logo for your company that represents you exactly the way you want it takes time and creativity. You don’t want to use something that has been done before or that everyone else in your industry uses.
  • Then comes the actual “drawing” of the logo.
  • Revisions – Your logo should be uniquely you. Most designers will allow you to modify your logo to where it is the perfect match for what your brand says about your company.
  • The usage rights – Your logo should be yours to use however your company needs as it grows. Depending on the exact rights negotiated with your designer, this could drive up costs.
  • Expertise – A lawyer is an expert at the law. If you were ever in a lawsuit, chances are you would hire an expert to help you with the areas you don’t know. This means they will provide guidance, offer suggestions, and tell you what should and shouldn’t work in various situations. A designer is the exact same only our expertise is visual communication. You might know exactly what you want, but we may be able to offer a suggestion that makes your idea even more effective in your market place. A design template site will not offer this expertise. You get what you get whether it’s effective or not.

When you hire a designer over a template logo site, you are paying for the V.I.P treatment. You are paying for the market research that backs up the fact that your logo will have a much better chance at succeeding in your market. You are paying for the right to say I own this logo and no one else in the world has anything like it. And if they do, you have the legal right to sue them for damages. You are paying for the expertise of the designer in terms of what is needed in a visual design to assist your company’s marketing. You are paying for artistic guidance and suggestion that you might not have even realized you needed in the past. You are paying for the benefit of molding the design to where it exactly matches what you want (and need) for your business. It doesn’t just sort of have the look you were going for. It’s not “good enough” for what you need. It’s everything you want it to be and more.

When shouldn’t I hire a designer?

Hiring a designer isn’t the best option in all situations. If you are on a very slim budget, perhaps it might be a better solution to get a template, start generating some income and then revisit hiring a designer. If you have the knowledge and programs needed to customize templates on your own (usually the Adobe Creative Suite although it’s not necessarily limited to that) then you’ll be fine not hiring a designer. If you need something immediately and are willing to sacrifice on exclusivity then this might be an option for you. If you’ve been doing this for years and your templates have made you millions of dollars…well you know what they say, don’t fix what isn’t broken.

So what do I do? Which one do I choose? 

Seriously consider both sides of the coin and which will be the best for your business. Do your research on which sites are out there. Do your research about which designers might be a good fit for you. Don’t always assume that the cheapest option is the best option because it might cost you a lot of money in the long run. However, also don’t assume that you have to pay a lot of money in order to get something that works for you. If you do decide to hire a designer they become a part of your project. Make sure that you feel comfortable with them, their processes, and their portfolio.

You can go either way. Just make sure that you know your options are.

May the creative force be with you,

Lindsay
Creative Director

There are 30 comments .

Kenneth

Lindsay – Good article. I have gone down both paths recently. For my primary website, I used 99Designs to create a logo for it and was really pleased with the process. For my smaller niches site, I’ve purchased stock photos and used one of the free logo creators to modify the image. Both approaches work well, and you’re absolutely right; it really depends on what’s right for your business.

Kenneth

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Thanks for the comment Kenneth! In my personal opinion, I’m not a fan of 99designs. I tend to lump it in with the design template sites even though yes you are technically hiring a designer.There are some other aspects to that site that are quite detrimental to the design industry as a whole. But that’s a post for another day. 🙂 You are correct that it is indeed an available option however. One thing I can say about 99designs though in relation to this post is that it is more difficult to make sure that the designer shares in your vision and is a good fit for you. I haven’t used 99designs myself, seeing as I am a designer, but from stories I have been told, it’s a rather quick process. You post a job, people submit solutions within a day or so and you select the best one. Is that accurate? That’s very similar to a design contest. Due to the short turnaround I would guess that the designers don’t have much time to research and without speaking with you in detail about your project it’s hard to imagine them understanding your business in depth and being able to offer artist guidance and suggestions. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a good result by any means. But you might be able to get a more effective result with a little more planning on the designer’s side. One specific question I have for you though, with 99designs is there a contract or anything that you sign with the selected designer that ensures you aren’t getting anything that’s copyrighted? I have heard horror stories about designers ripping off other designs and posting them on 99designs submissions. This shouldn’t be allowed if there was a contract so I’m curious to hear it straight from someone who has used the service! And if there isn’t a contract, are you worried about copyright infringement at all or are there any other fears/concerns popping up for you?

    I appreciate your comments!
    Lindsay

    Reply »
      Danny @ Firepole Marketing

      Hey Lindsay, I’ve had both good and bad experiences with 99designs. It’s exactly a design contest, but sometimes that’s a good thing – it gives designers a chance to showcase their work to people who wouldn’t otherwise be aware of them, and it gives project managers a chance to get multiple perspectives on design.

      To answer your question, yes, there is a contract – when a winner is picked, 99designs infrastructure for the handover includes contracts that are signed, passing on the rights.

      Reply »
        Lindsay

        Oh Danny. That’s why I’m excited to interview you. 🙂 You and I have such different perspectives on design contests. But that’s what makes the world interesting!

        I am glad to know there is a contract though. I knew you would receive the rights to your logo but I was curious about the whole copyrighting thing. Unfortunately it’s such a hard thing to control globally that it’s nice to know it’s at least in the contract!

        Reply »
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

You’ve done a really great job of covering the pros and cons of both sides here, Lindsay. There’s one thing that I think is worth some exploration, though, and that is the extra risk that designers (and any supplier) can bring to the table, by virtue of being flaky and unreliable (not in all cases, but definitely in some situations. I guess that comes down to proper planning and management though, right?

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Absolutely. In my mind, that tied into making sure the designer was a good fit for you and doing your research. To some extent, because I definitely realize that not everyone that is flaky or unreliable can be spotted right away. But some of them can and you should definitely try to find that out prior to working with a designer. I have heard of designers asking for references from a new client to make sure that the client has a history of paying on time (and otherwise being reliable.) I would think you could also ask a designer for that as well. I wouldn’t have a problem putting someone in touch with past clients so they could find out more about my level of responsiveness and dependability. For me, it’s all about the relationship with the client. I want a new client to feel completely comfortable with me and my agency. I want us both to feel like we’re a good fit for each other.

    Thanks for your input Danny!
    Lindsay

    Reply »
      Danny @ Firepole Marketing

      I agree with you, except that you can’t always tell up front, even if you have successful projects with the suppliers. I can certainly think of examples where I worked with designers, coders, you name it – they were great and reliable for a project or two, and then something went off the rails, and they just stopped answering emails. Does that sound familiar? 😉

      Reply »
        Lindsay

        Very good point. I suppose that’s the nature of the beast when you’re working with people and not automatically generated websites. 🙂 I like to think though that when a designer or client has any emotional connection with you that they would be invested in your success enough to look out for your best interest. But I suppose that’s just me being hopeful!

        Reply »
Sarah Arrow

A really in depth post Lindsay and it’s a false economy to buy something that can be withdrawn on a whim.

I also think when starting out, businesses don’t fully understand the power of branding and logo. 99 designs gives them an education that needs to be learnt. Only then will they know the power of a great designer and excellent branding.

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Excellent point and one that designers sometimes forget. We have been trained to know the power of branding and logos and we sometimes forget that some business owners haven’t learned that yet. It’s very time consuming to have to educate someone on why they need your services on that level. It’s one thing to educate them about your specialty or differentiation from other designers but to educate them on the importance of a quality design? That’s sometimes more than it’s worth.

    Reply »
Mira Crisp

I recently transferred my blog to WP too and I needed a logo. The reason why I decided to go with a customized stock logo was the fact that my blog/site is not bringing in any income at this point. However, I am planning to start business later this year or early next year and at that point I will look for a professional design. Once you register your business, business related expenses such as professional design become much more reasonable and justifiable. Very informative post! I have also replied to the group email.
Best of luck, Lindsay! 🙂
Mira

Reply »
Maija

A really informative post Lindsay. Logo design is such an important thing, and articles like this are what people need to be prepared and able to make informed decisions! I have recently commissioned a logo for a specific project and was offered 5 different designs by 5 different concepts to start with which sounded like a good idea, and it so isn’t!

Reply »
    Lindsay

    5 different designs by 5 different concepts? Can you explain a bit more? Were there 5 designers working on the project or one designer gave you 5 very different designs?

    Thank you for your feedback. I’m glad it was well received by business owners because that was who I was writing for!

    Reply »
Kraig

Lindsay, great post! Up until reading this post I have traditionally thought about what I can do cheaply and effectively until I can get enough working capital to go back and brand things correctly. It gives me a lot to think about as I approach the next needed steps in growing my business ventures.

Cheers,
Kraig.

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Thanks for taking the time to read the post and give some feedback, Kraig! I’m glad that you found it helpful and informative. There are definitely two sides of the coin to consider and unfortunately, not every business owner is aware of them. I wish you all the best in your business ventures!

    Reply »
Sam

Hey Lindsay,

Here’s the comment as promised. For the most part I would agree with the pros and cons that you put forth. Another part of it really boils down to who are you doing business with. It all comes down to what are your goals and what are you trying to accomplish. As mentioned previously, the 99design route is one way, but on the low end can run $200 bucks so if you’re on a budget, this isn’t always the way to go. If you’re going all out, do some deep research and reference. This route can take far more time, but can get you exactly what you want, if you’re willing to pay.

Great post Lindsay, I look forward to seeing more from you in the future.

Sam

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Thanks Sam! What you say is exactly right. I would say though that research should be done even if you’re not wanting to go all out. I have seen plenty of businesses start with the template route and realize (sometimes really late in the game) that it wasn’t the best way for them to go. They had already put a lot of money into their brand equity and they then basically had to turn around and start all over again. Now it didn’t drop them back to zero brand equity but a few of these businesses definitely took a hit. So my advice is to just do your research no matter what direction you’re thinking of taking and make sure that you’re not shooting yourself in the foot either way! Research can be time consuming but it can only lead you to informed decisions which is definitely where you want to be in business.

    Appreciate the feedback!

    Reply »
Celine

Hi Lindsay,

This is a really good article. Unbiased, specific, and clear. It allows readers to think for themselves as you present the pros and cons. Your comparison between a design template and a designer just helps one as they reflect on whether or not to hire which. 🙂 This is indeed helpful as I myself am faced with this issue, since the owner of the firm I work at is looking into hiring a graphic designer. We’re trying to outsource someone since he’s on a tight budget but would also want to make the best out of the work, so these tips just come in handy! Thanks again!!

Celine

Reply »
Timo Kiander

Lindsay,

Great post!

I’m currently working with a designer. He is creating my logo and he also does some additional tweaks to the theme I’m about to use.

I guess graphic design is so much more than the visual part – it’s communication too (as you mentioned). Mostly, when you work with a designer, the end result is more personal too.

Cheers,
Timo

Reply »
    Lindsay

    Excellent point Timo. It is about the result being more personal. It fits your business so much better if a designer has time to get to know you and your company. Thanks for the comment!

    Reply »
Li

bang-up post, I’m saving now! Thank you!

Reply »
Steve Baines

Great post Lindsay. A key to success is hiring people who know more than you, and then getting out of their way. I am a huge promoter of professionals and experts. You get much better results, which are more effective, and cost less in the long run since you don’t have to redo or fix the work.

Reply »
Asif Ahmed

Its always better to hire a designer for your work because its best to allow the professionals to do the job. Buying a template will never give you the professional look that you are looking for.

Reply »

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